Transitory Tales or: How I Learned to Stop Planning and Let it Happen.

I’ve already told you the story of how I fell in love with DC, but I haven’t told you the story of how I came to find myself here.

If you would have asked me 10 years ago where I thought I’d be at age 25, I can guarantee that DC would not even have made the list. But then again, I also thought I would become and engineer and someday be employed by NASA. This just goes to show that the best decisions in life are often the unplanned ones, the ones you never saw coming, the ones that happen when you let life take you to unexpected places.

The first time I moved away from my parent’s home in Vacaville, CA (famous for many things, like the hometown of the band Papa Roach, the premium outlets, and the Nut Tree) was to attend the University of California, San Diego. I made the 10 hour drive south with my parents on move-in day, and started classes as an aeronautical engineering major.

About two years into my college career, I finally let go of my engineering-bound lifeplan. Much to the distress of my mom, I no longer had a 20-year career trajectory. Which was exactly how I wanted it to be, and I’ve never regretted it. When I changed departments to International Studies with an emphasis on Political Science and added Critical Gender Studies as a second major, I jumped in with both feet. I signed up for a summer-long internship in Sacramento, CA, working in the Policy department of a prominent women’s health organization, and with this first taste of policy work, I was hooked! In Sacramento, I met accomplished women who had jobs that I would want! I learned from them, asked them how they got to where they are, and took note of the steps they took to achieve their success. This was the first time I thought about what I might want to study in grad school, and the first time I had heard of a Masters in Public Policy. Afterwards, I went back to UC San Diego with renewed focus and a new sense of direction.

Intern Melissa

The following summer, I took another policy internship, but decided to venture even further. Yes, I became a DC summer intern. The kind that blogs make fun of. The kind that wait in line at Ben’s Chili Bowl on the weekends. The kind that get caught outside without an umbrella because “It didn’t look like it would rain today!” and besides, it doesn’t rain in the summers in California. And yes, the kind that takes the Metro from Metro Center to Chinatown because I didn’t realize it was only a 4 block walk between them. I’m not proud of these things, but they definitely brought me to where I am today.

My first DC rainstorm.

During this first experience with DC, I walked around in amazement and tried to take in as much of the city as I could in those 3 months. The fact that the national monument was visible from my apartment window and the presidential motorcade stopping traffic was a normal, every-day annoyance , mystified me. DC seduced me with the abundance of happy hours, political events, Screen on the Green, and Jazz in the Garden. It was then that I decided I would come back to this city for grad school.

When I returned to San Diego from my summer in DC, I got to work on my graduate school applications, sent them in, and began the waiting process. That year, I applied to 3 schools in California, 3 schools in DC, and 1 school in New York. While I received acceptances to all but one of these schools, I knew that DC was calling my name- and that it would be the perfect setting for studying public policy.

WWII Memorial at Night

Fast forward three years to now.  I’m in a city I never planned to stay in, in a career I never planned to have.  And I couldn’t be more happy with the way it’s all turned out.


  1. charlene says:

    It took me months of transferring from the Red to the Blue/Orange line to realize that Farragut North and Farragut West were the same square block!

  2. Cindy says:

    “I’m in a city I never planned to stay in, in a career I never planned to have. And I couldn’t be more happy with the way it’s all turned out.”

    What a wonderful feeling!

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